4.48 Psychosis was Sarah Kane's final play, before she took her own life, aged 29. It was first staged posthumously by the Royal Court last year at the Theatre Upstairs. Now revived in James Macdonald's masterly production, it has been moved downstairs, but to a completely reconfigured corner of the theatre that enhances the sense of dislocation that the play is about.
Entering through the stalls, we are in fact led onto the stage itself, upon which a seating bank has been installed facing out towards the auditorium, with the audience partly reflected in a huge, angled mirror positioned over the stage. The mirror also captures the actors, of course, and Macdonald's production, so superbly designed by Jeremy Herbert, is one of the most desolately beautiful I have ever witnessed.
In fact, this work which has no plot and which, in script form, doesn't even ascribe its speeches to particular actors - is probably the closest I've seen a play merge into being an art installation, but one with a raw howl of pain at its centre that makes it art as well as artful.
Played in tandem with Kane's penultimate play, Crave, it reverberates with an overpowering sense of loss, in which a desire for love is juxtaposed with an even greater wish for death. But its amazing to think of someone, so clearly in despair herself, writing with such clarity and vision about her own unhappiness. This is work that is terrifyingly torn straight from the heart, and ultimately overwhelming.
It is also played to polished perfection by a cast that comprises Daniel Evans (in a striking change of gear from his last London appearance, as Charley Kringas in the Donmar production of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along), Madeleine Potter (likewise a big departure from starring opposite Macaulay Culkin in Madame Melville), and Jo McInnes.
Seeing Crave and 4.48 Psychosis together is like taking a trip on the London Eye, but with far more devastating consequences. The experience gives you a totally different perspective on familiar landmarks of the human condition; and you return to earth, or at least Sloane Square, with a totally changed view.
- Mark Shenton